Friday, October 29, 2010

The Fort by Bernard Cornwell

How do you write 450 pages about a battle that didn't happen?

It isn't easy, but somehow Bernard Cornwell, NYT bestselling author of Agincourt, managed to make it fairly interesting. It's not exactly that the battle at Penobscot didn't happen; it's that, after much planning and the first assault by the American Rebel forces against British Fort George, bickering and lack of cooperation among the militia, the Navy and the Marines -- and a frustratingly haughty and prickly, Paul Revere--caused them not to follow through and destroy the fort while it was still vulnerable. 

I can't say I was hooked on this book from the beginning. There were too many characters introduced too quickly, and, outside of Peleg Wadsworth, none of them were treated with enough depth for me to really care. Cornwell ends with the destruction of the fleet, apparently considered the worst American naval disaster prior to Pearl Harbor. As a history, that's the proper ending point, but as a novel it felt as though it ended in midstream. Characters like John Fletcher and his sister Beth are introduced with great promise, but their stories go nowhere. 

Cornwell's battle scenes are well-done and riveting. Indeed, that's when my interest first piqued, after which point I decided to stick with it. Some historical novels focus on the individual acting within the event, and some focus on the event itself. The Fort leans toward the latter, which was interesting for me, but not beyond three stars.

This book was provided free of charge under the Amazon Vine program, in return for posting a review at

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